Two weeks in a row of newsletters! A personal record. There are cute dogs at the end. Please don’t skip straight to the end.
Let’s dig in to a common problem people ask about – Difficulty initiating sex.
Initiating is hard for a lot of people.
The first strategy I suggest for making it easier, particularly in a long term relationship is to consider how you like to be approached and how you feel most comfortable (or least uncomfortable) approaching a partner.
In the CAYA workbook I include the Sexual Initiation Styles quiz which you can learn more about and take online here.
It’s very common for people to enjoy feeling wanted and to experience their partner’s spontaneous initiation as “evidence” of their desirability or even their loveability. If this is true for your partner, it’s worthwhile to spend some time considering how you can make intimating work for you, in order to bring your partner pleasure.
There are so many ways to do this, it’s hard to write an email about it, but here are a few examples:
If you don’t prefer to initiate because feeling “pursued” is part of what activates your desire for sex, follow the example of my dogs. Olive LOVES to be chased. She nips at the air around Thunder over and over, runs away a little, then drops into a play bow, mouth open, ears bright. Nip, run, bow. “Chase me” she’s saying. “Hey! Hey! I wanna play! Chase me!”
If you don’t prefer to initiate because your brakes are always on until you’re in the midst of a sexual situation (like Camilla in CAYA), go ahead and get yourself into the midst of a sexual situation through reading or listening to or watching something erotic, let yourself get turned on, then bring that turnon to your partner. This might work best when you have SCHEDULED the sex, so you know your partner will be free to connect with you erotically when you approach them.
If initiation is difficult because you fear rejection or judgment, that’s a conversation to have with your partner and with your journal or your therapist or a good friend. Do you have experience of initiating and being rejected, especially by this particular partner? If so, what did it feel like they were rejecting? Just sex...? Or maybe did it feel like they were rejecting some larger aspect of you as a person? If you don’t have experience of rejection, especially with this partner, what is the source of the lingering fear? If you don’t have reason to mistrust their positive response... who’s left to mistrust? You. Is it that you worry about being rejected because you’re carrying around old ideas that your sexuality makes you unacceptable? Whose judgment do you fear?
This last one is the biggest of the three. I recommend an exercise based on Internal Family Systems. It works like this:
In your mind, invite forward the part of you that says “Heck no!” when you consider initiating. Have a conversation with this part or you about what they’re trying to protect you from, how they feel about it, what they fear. You might think them for their hard work, and you might invite them to trust you to protect yourself even when you initiate sex. Assure them you pick good partners who will not shame you or harm you in any way. Ask for their help in creating a new pattern that protects you from what you fear and yet opens you up to new and pleasurable ways of experiencing erotic connection.
Could it be that initiating sex is just not for you? I mean, sure. People vary. But initiation the way this question describes it is less a sexual issue and more a relationship issue.
A simple solution to the whole “initiation” idea is to initiate by sitting down with your calendars and going, “Okay, so when does sex fit into our schedule today/this week/this month?” And then you show up at the agreed time. To make sure your partner feels “wanted,” if that’s what they’re longing for, you can send texts or make comments about how you’re looking forward to or getting ready for your planned get-together.
Sometimes people resist the idea of planning sex, because it doesn’t feel sexy or romantic. But what could be more romantic than putting something in your calendar, cordoning off time and space just for erotic connection? With all the other things we could be doing with our time, you chose to make sure you had time for shared sexual pleasure.
This is getting much longer than people are probably interested in reading, but it’s a complex issue. People have feelings about it.
Do you have questions about initiation? I love questions! I may answer them here or they may become material for a podcast. I will never reveal your name.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you like dogs? I recently spoke to Marissa Martino and Sarah Stremming about Burnout and why it matters for you and your dog. It’s not hard to get me to talk about rescue dogs! Give it a listen here.
And in closing, here are the aforementioned Olive and Thunder: